Asean regional forum in Bali to take up Spratlys row
JAKARTA—The Association of Southeast Asian Nations will take up the rising tension in the resource-rich West Philippine Sea (South China Sea)—brought by overlapping claims on the Spratly Islands—when the group sits with leaders of other countries to discuss regional security issues, said Surin Pitsuwan, Asean secretary-general.
The Asean regional forum (ARF) will take place in Bali later this month.
Pitsuwan told reporters here that Asean was not interfering in the dispute among Brunei, Malaysia, Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan and China but that it “will provide the forum, where issues on the South China Sea can be discussed openly and candidly.”
Pitsuwan said the discussion would not affect the move of claimant countries, which would like to pursue bilateral talks with China.
Aside from Asean countries, Australia, Bangladesh, Canada, the European Union, India, Japan, Mongolia, New Zealand, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Russia, North Korea, South Korea, Timor Leste and the United States were also expected to attend the ARF, which Indonesia is facilitating this year.
Pitsuwan said the task of regional community-building requires that apart from their leaders, the peoples in the Asean-member countries must get their acts together.
He also emphasized that beyond being an organization of leaders, Asean as an institution must matter directly to the region’s peoples.
He pointed out that the last two decades of Asean’s 44-year history were the most significant periods in deepening regional cooperation, especially heightened by two global financial crises.
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